It’s hard to believe that Hammerfest is in its 4th year already. The first UK metal festival of the year certainly knows how to throw a party and this year was no exception. This year’s line-up was one of the strongest yet attracting Thrash legends Anthrax and our very own Skindred as headliners.
There was plenty to come before any thought of headliners however and events started for Lyric Lounge Review over at the always-pitch-black second stage. Heaven’s Basement have suffered a few set-backs over the last year or so, mainly losing their singer, but appear to be heading in the right direction again. New(ish) boy Aaron on vocals makes a few mistakes through the set but looks to be a decent frontman to take the band forward. Their up-tempo rock’n’roll is a perfect way to set the ball rolling for the afternoon. Fury UK followed on the second stage. These guys are much more in the metal vein and what they lack in charisma they certainly make up for with meaty riffs.
Chimaira manage to draw one of the biggest crowds of the weekend over on the main stage in the early evening. They are also a band that has had more than their fair share of line-up problems over recent times. Opening up with one of their most recognisable tunes, ‘Nothing Remains’ sets out the stall. As expected Chimaira deliver a brutal set that never stops for breath but they don’t quite hold everyone’s attention towards the end and the relentless barrage does become a little tiring in honesty. Paradise Lost delivers a well-balanced set combining new and old tunes by the bucket-load. Old favourites ‘One Second’ and ‘As I Die’ sound splendid and they also premier a new song from the upcoming album. Although they are never the happiest bunch it seems pretty obvious that half-way through the set that the band doesn’t really want to be there and this spoils it a bit, but it was still worth watching.
Anthrax bound onto the stage like their lives depend on it. Hitting the latest album hard for tracks such as ‘Devil You Know’ and ‘Earth on Hell’, these sit surprisingly well with old classics such as ‘Madhouse’ and ‘Anti-Social’. This just goes to prove how good last years ‘Worship Music’ CD was and this set only confirms a massive comeback for the Thrash heavy-weights. Anthrax is the t-shirt of choice in the crowd tonight on young and old fans alike so it’s no surprise that Anthrax are greeted and sent away as heroes.
The Thrash continued into the early hours as Evile hit the main stage for the first time on their three visits to Hammerfest. They deliver a tight and faultless set and it’s not their fault they are following Anthrax but it doesn’t quite hit the high standard of the previous band.
It’s either madness or genius to hold the final day of a festival on St Patrick ’s Day. Whichever it is, there were a good show of Guinness glasses to welcome Oaf to the stage to open Saturday’s proceedings. After the most entertaining sound check of the weekend, Oaf kick into gear unveiling plenty of new songs from their upcoming second album. They all sound suitably shouty and aggressive as to be expected but ‘F*ck Off, Seagull’ was definitely a stand out tune. Following Oaf on the pub stage were Collisions who made a tidy bomb blast to wake up those who were still half asleep. AR then took to the stage playing some great Metallica inspired numbers with just a touch of geeky humour to lighten up the mood. They may not be world-beaters but they certainly brought a smile to most of the faces in the Queen Vic crowd.
Sworn Amongst are one of many Northern bands making a decent rumble in the metal world at the minute. They may just turn out to be the surprise package of Hammerfest for those who happened to see them. They churn out a straight ahead metal sound, mixing the styles of bands like Machine Head and Trivium, but they do it very well. For such a new and young band they seem damn good at what they do and they may have produced the set that Chimaira should have done this weekend. Senser follow up with their Rage Against The Machine heavy political juggernaut. They get the crowd moving well but they weren’t the only ones to do so on a boozy St Paddy’s…
If E.T. ever lands in your back garden and wants to know what Heavy Metal is all about, just buy him a ticket for the next Hell show. These guys are completely over the top and brilliant just for that fact. Multiple costume changes, a stage set-up to look like a church and a lead singer who appears to think he is taking a sermon instead of singing in a rock band. It may not be everyone’s cuppa but you can’t deny that Hell have the songs to back-up all the pantomime. Amon Amarth are pretty much the polar opposite. The Viking metallers play a no-nonsense set of their blackened Nordic metal and get more than a few fists pumping in the process.
As the festival starts to near the end, legs start to get a bit weary and some premature hangovers start to kick in from those midday frolics; you may be forgiven for wanting something a bit on the easy listening side to finish off. No chance. Skindred have established themselves as one of this country’s finest live bands. The main reason for this is the energy they create. Mixing some huge beats that no other band would get away with at a metal festival with some massive metal riffs, Skindred get everyone moving. The youngest and oldest members of the crowd can be seen bouncing to ‘Trouble’, robot dancing on Benji Webbe’s insistence and clothes are dispatched and waved around appropriately for the big ‘Newport Helicopter’ finale. Brilliant.